It’s a rainy day in downtown Webster Groves. As a matter of fact, it’s pouring down rain and I don’t have an umbrella. “Perfect,” I say to myself. I shake off the wetness as I walk into Cyrano’s and see Erin Bode sitting at a table, waiting for my arrival. The coffee she’s drinking is still steaming and her smile is just as warm as the music she makes and the songs she sings—the kinds of songs that seem to blend perfectly with a rainy day.
Erin Bode has been finding her way into people’s hearts through music in St. Louis for almost a decade. She tells me Cyrano’s is the place she finds most at home singing in. “I can see everybody in here and I can have a conversation with them and that is really valuable to me and the rest of the band.”
Bode has released six albums, sold tens of thousands of singles and is making it as a professional singer in the town she’s called home since high school. She moved here with her parents from Minnesota when her dad was called to be the pastor of St. Paul’s Lutheran Church in Des Peres. She always sang in church choirs but says she knew at a very young age that someday she wanted to be on stage in the spotlight. When she came to St. Louis as a sophomore at Lutheran South, she got involved in music theater and spent much of her time on various community stages around town. After graduating from Eureka High School in 1995, she headed north for the University of Minnesota, but St. Louis and the music here kept calling her back. She enrolled at Webster University and that’s where her professional career really began.
“I was studying classical music but I wanted to be able to express myself in my own way, so I joined the vocal jazz ensemble at Webster and I had this great instructor named Christine Hitt—she used to play at the Missouri Athletic Club and she put me on a couple of her gigs,” she recalls. “I realized I could sing these songs that I loved (most of them I knew from musicals) and I could do my own thing.”
Bode describes her sound as a combination of jazz, folk and pop and music lovers around St. Louis recognize her exceptional talent and ability to capture an audience. “What I think is interesting about St. Louis—and it goes along with why people always ask, Where did you go to high school—is because it tells you something about them, St. Louisans like their own areas and that’s why there’s a lot of music all around the city. We can play in a different place every night of the week in St. Louis and have a different audience.”
Bode has become very well known in music circles and has even made appearances on national TV shows, but she’s not a household name, not yet. While fame has never been her goal, she probably wouldn’t turn her back on it, either. “It would be hard for me to say, I don’t like fame, but I don’t value it in the way that society does. Fame can be just as much of a bad thing as it is a good thing; it’s helpful when it allows you to do more of what you want to do.”
Lately, we’ve seen and heard the songstress on local TV singing the Cardinals’ rally song, but even more important is the song she recorded in February for St. Louis Children’s Hospital. It’s called The Space Between and was inspired by a young patient named Katelyn Jackson. “She’s a great example of someone who has been helped by Children’s Hospital. She has had six open-heart surgeries and she’s just 10 years old,” she says. “Today, she’s healthy and doing very well and very optimistic with so much hope, and she’s a great example for other kids and other families who have to go through this.” Sales of the song through iTunes and Amazon.com will benefit the hospital’s foundation.
For now, Bode is back at work on stage, and getting ready to go on tour this summer. But she’ll be back in St. Louis soon—back to the people here who always make her feel at home, “St. Louis is such a supportive environment. There are so many venues around here that have music whereas in other cities, they wouldn’t. St. Louis is just a music town.”
And this music town has produced more than its share of musical legends: Chuck Berry, Tina Turner, Michael McDonald…the list goes on. Maybe someday Erin Bode’s name will be added to that list.
We say goodbye and I head out of Cyrano’s back to my car. It’s still pouring down rain and I still don’t have an umbrella, but now there’s an Erin Bode song playing in my head. “Perfect,” I say to myself.
Native St. Louisan Paul Brown is a lifelong journalist, and previously served as a broadcaster for KMOX and KTRS radios and ABC 30. He also worked as a freelance producer for programs on the Speed TV network and as a media relations consultant specializing in political campaigns.